Ann Elizabeth Montgomery, Ph.D

I’m a researcher with the National Center
on homelessness among veterans and the Birmingham Alabama VA Medical Center
Health Services Research and Development Program. I’m also an assistant professor
at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. So
the first of those studies we found that women veterans who’ve reported past year
intimate partner violence, have about three times the odds of experiencing
housing instability. Compared with women veterans who haven’t had those
experiences. Women veterans are the fastest-growing segment of the veteran
population. They’re much more the population of women joining
participating in a military service. That’s grown over time. So the number of women
veterans has also grown over time. The VA is traditionally been an institution
that’s focused on serving men, because you know veterans are largely male and
women veterans have some unique needs. And, particularly you know the new women
veterans who are coming in are younger they have children they have needs that
maybe the VA hasn’t traditionally needed to address. So we’re sort of
looking at a lot of issues around women veterans in this growing population of
women veterans. But sort of after reviewing the literature, one, sort of
striking theme is this experience of trauma. So we wanted to explore that
further. One major lesson from this research that
I think will be helpful for veterans experiencing homelessness or who are at
risk of homelessness is, really from more that sort of the health care systems. So
the data that we use when we conduct this research are data from veterans
medical records. So these data exists they’re sort of not they’re not
collected as part of research they’re collected as part of veteran’s health
care experiences. So healthcare providers, social service providers in the VA
setting, have access to this information that can let them know, even if a veteran
doesn’t tell them. That they may be at risk for homelessness. They know if
there’s an indicator of military sex Oh trauma, this veteran is and increased
odds of experiencing housing instability. They know if there’s an indicator of
intimate partner violence in a medical record, they’re at an increased risk of
housing instability. So you know there’s the potential to know even without you directly discussing with the veteran if they’re are you having
housing issues. You can know that these veterans may need you to talk about
some of these issues. Research around trauma and housing instability among
women veterans. I think there’s a lot more to be done, I think that
that’s a small part of the research that needs to be done around women veterans. I mentioned that there’s little we know about the other sort of life and
social factors of women veterans generally; and who are experiencing
homelessness specifically. They’re often as I mentioned earlier, there are
likely specific needs around caring for children. Women veterans,
particularly those with children homelessness may look different, you know they are other often doubled up. They may not be identified as homeless. They may not be eligible for certain services, because of what
their homelessness situation looks like. So I think future research needs to really
sort of understand the needs of women veterans around. Not just directly
housing , but all these other issues that can impact housing and to really think
about how we can either you know create new interventions or sort of adapt some
of the existing interventions that exist to really address the specific needs of
that population. A lot of the studies that I work on we feel very strongly
about incorporating veterans voices into this work. So we often while we’re using
this administrative data what we’re looking at medical record data we also
like to interview veterans about their personal experiences. So when we
conducted a study just to learn about VA Universal screen for housing instability. So all veterans who come in or ask questions about their current housing
and sort of if they have any concerns about their future housing. We
interviewed sixty veterans thirty women actually maybe twenty women but we
interviewed veterans about housing instability. We asked these questions, what do you think these questions that were asking in the
healthcare system mean. You know what kind of resources do you need to access
housing and not even prompted at all. These women constantly almost all of
them brought up these issues of trauma. You know, losing their housing because
of an abusive partner or experience of trauma during military service. That sort
of spiraled into you know having like leaving military service earl.y So
then they’re out of the military, they don’t have the benefits they
would have had had they stayed in longer. And how those experiences
overtime impacted their housing. Hearing these
women’s voices puts a face to the data that we use. It is
really important to move it from a chart or a table
or paper. This sort of research products to a real-life
experience, that real people are having.

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